Career advice from a Maternity Services Nurse Unit Manager

Michelle Morrow is the Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) of Maternity at Northern Health in Victoria.

The ANMJ chats to her about pursuing the professions, what makes a good NUM, and her tips for students and early career nurses and midwives.

What drew you to nursing and midwifery?

My mum saw my potential as a nurse long before I saw it myself.

As a result, I gravitated away from this option and graduated from HSC without any clear direction, commencing an Arts degree instead.

I worked in the travel industry and then a family run pub before returning part-time to Australian Catholic University (ACU) as a mature-age student with two small children in tow. I completed a general nursing degree before specialising in midwifery.

My introduction to nursing is clearly very different to that of many others who have entered straight from school. I’ve missed that wonderful camaraderie that comes from shared experience, but my own life experiences were beneficial to me in the early days and the wonderful friendships secured across different hospitals and locations since graduating endure.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

The Maternity Services MUM role at Northern Health is varied and interesting. Overseeing a 24-bed postnatal ward, the Domiciliary and the Maternity in the Home programmes, Lactation Services & Childbirth Education, it is really busy.

It’s a large portfolio, which is largely administrative. On top of managing staffing, safety and quality and implementing improvements across all programmes, there’s still ample opportunity for both staff and patient interaction and a typical day could include visiting new parents on the ward or flicking through the wedding photos of a newly wedded midwife.

As a NUM, how do you support and empower staff to perform to their best?

Midwifery is such a hands-on, clinical profession that we as a team inspire each other by our practice and our interaction with our patients.

As a manager, the aim is to understand what the individual goals and ambitions look like for staff and providing pathways to achieve those goals by mentoring or allocating resources to assist.

What was the best piece of advice you receive as an early career nurse?

Midwifery can be challenging and confronting, but at the end of the day, it’s the woman’s experience and their journey. It’s not about you, but their labour, birth and early parenthood experience that you can very positively influence.

What attributes do you need to succeed as a NUM?

A narcissistic personality would not fare well in this role. You need to be fair, caring, empathetic and above all, a team player. To lead by example and to own your own mistakes.

Every midwife has a personal story and regularly, they are brave enough to share with me their struggles. You, therefore, need to be a good listener and to be kind. And most importantly, despite having a great team, you need humour, as some days refuse to go according to plan.

What advice would you give to students or new graduates starting out?

Be brave. Take chances with your career and be open to new directions.

Nursing is a wonderful career and the opportunities for personal and professional growth are everywhere.

Mistakes are inevitable. Learn from them and from your colleagues and enjoy the special bonds that are created so easily within this profession.

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